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21 Day Testing: Produce Grown in the Salinas Valley a Case Study

21 Day Testing: Produce Grown in the Salinas Valley a Case Study

Larissa Winder

Cocooned between rolling peaks on either side, the city of Gonzales sits like an emerald jewel. The produce grown here outnumbers the people 1,000 to 1 and you are more likely to catch sight of an idling tractor far off in the fields than gridlock traffic. It is green as far as the eye can see and the aroma of sun-warmed tomatoes and fresh-cut broccoli fills the air. 

Our technicians walk up and down these fields, their feet clad in hard-rubber boots. Their expert gazes run over the sprawling greenery, taking in every detail. Usually, this particular stretch of land is serviced by one or two people, but today they are working in a much larger team because they have an important job to do. Today is 21 days before these growers plan to harvest. 

Testing and Metrics

In California, the FDA does not require that growers test their water. Growers are, instead, governed by individual entities, such as the Leafy Green Association (LGMA). The LGMA specifically was formed in 2007 in response to a spinach E. coli outbreak in 2006 wherein 200 people became ill. An LGMA certification is extremely important to growers who have or wish to place their produce on the shelves of large grocery chains. They use that leverage to set standards, or metrics, to ensure safe, healthy produce makes it to consumers. (Ward,2020) 

These metrics are in a constant state of change as technology and the science around water-borne pathogens evolve. Of the 430 checkpoints of an LGMA audit, 100 pertain to irrigation. A quarter of those checkpoints specifically pertain to treated water. Your water treatment provider often offer guidance to ensure that each of these metrics are met. (Ward, 2020)


Many of these checkpoints are audited on this day when growers are tasked with treating all water being sourced from open-air bodies, such as reservoirs. The purpose of this treatment is to ensure that the water being delivered to the soon-to-be-harvested produce via overhead sprinkler systems does not exceed standard LGMA water requirement. The LGMA requires that a minimum of 3, 100 ml samples taken 2 of 3 must be non-detect for generic E.coli and 1 must not indicate a microbial load of greater than 10 MPN generic E.coli. All 3 must be 99 MPN or less for Total Coliforms or an adequate log reduction of Total Coliform as compared to an untreated source water sample. (Ward, 2020)

The Treatment


The treatment can vary between growers and crops. For this particular grower, we are treating tomato plants being irrigated by overhead sprinklers, fed by a reservoir. As such, they have opted to utilize calcium hypochlorite, an oxidizer. Other options include sodium hypochlorite, potassium hypochlorite, and PAA. All of these chemicals work to oxidize any and every cause of turbidity, including non-invasive matter. The treatment is pushed through the system within minutes of reaching the irrigation sprinklers. It is now time to test the water that is finally reaching the field. 

Our resident food safety expert, Garrett Dana, has already inspected the system and has noticed some modifications that the grower has made. In the back of his head, he files the observation away in case he needs it. Now, he crouches low to the ground and watches the irrigation sprinklers rise in the last block of fields on the docket today. With a 10 mL glass vial in his hand, he approaches carefully until he is within arm’s reach. He places the vial in the pressurized stream, which sends a spray of water towards him. When the vial is properly filled, he moves away with ease.

Garrett’s colleague is on hand with a plain white packet containing a powdered chemical, dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD). They join each other at the tailgate of the truck looking out at the produce grown in Salians Valley, Garrett empties the packet into the vial. Then, he shakes it. As the water agitates, it begins to change color. Slowly but surely, the once totally clear liquid is a rosy pink. 

“That’s not what we’re looking for,” Garrett says, sliding the vial into a pocket-sized device he had produced from the truck’s cab. 

It is a colorimeter. With it, they should be able to analyze the exact shade the DBP has turned the water. This shade corresponds with a range of residual chemicals that can be detected in the already-treated water. 

Garrett is right; the water should be a much darker pink. The low residuals indicate that the mix of oxidizers being run through the system is not sufficient. The entire block of crops is about to fail. That is unacceptable. 

Remediation

The team immediately transitions into a new mindset: remediation. Garrett hops on the phone and lets his contact at the main pump know that the readings came back at a much lower number than expected. If they cannot find the cause of the discrepancy and remedy it within 24 hours, this grower’s LGMA certification may be on the line. One by one, he runs through the list of common reasons for such a low residual return. 

First, he instructs his colleague at the water source to visually assess it. If there are obvious signs of debris or an algae bloom, they may not have pushed enough chemistry to properly treat the water. This would mean that the oxidizers are not sufficient enough to kill bacteria and still may be present in the final sample. 

Second, Garrett scans the wide-open fields for the telltale halo of water on the horizon. This could indicate that there has been a breach in one of the underground pipes. If the system is losing water, it is also losing chemistry. Again, a cause for low residuals. 

Finally, he sends a technician to investigate a hunch. Within minutes, he gets the call. The technician explains that he agrees with Garrett’s theory that the growers had modified their system to accommodate a spacing issue. In doing so, they had placed the flow meter, the device that analyzes distribution uniformity (DU), too close to the paddle mechanism that allows for accurate measurement. The three-foot clearance that is standard has been reduced by over a foot. Due to this modification, the water that had previously flowed without hindrance was back flowing into the paddle after hitting the container’s siding. The meter was reading a much lower flow rate than it was delivering in reality. Therefore, we had pushed a lower rate of treatment than needed. 

Garrett instructs the technician to recalibrate. He gets the notification that the chemistry has been readjusted and we wait. Finally, he approaches the sprinkler once again, this time with a new vial and an unopened packet of DPD. He is already giving the water a vigorous shake by the time he makes it back to the truck. All eyes are on the tiny container as it began to change. 

“Now, that’s it,” he says holding up the container of dark pink liquid. 

The colorimeter confirms his evaluation. The numbers are sitting comfortably within an acceptable range. He nods at his colleague who takes one more sample to confirm. These tomatoes will be sitting on grocery shelves very soon. From the moment of the initial test to the moment of success, only ten minutes have passed. 

Communication is Key

Garrett’s last step is to give the field manager of the produce grown in Salians Valley a call. They go through each block, one by one, and discuss the preliminary test results. Garrett makes him aware of the remediation and explains the need to take the system modification into account the next time treatment is administered. They agree on a plan and he documents it carefully. With him, communication is the foundation for a better experience for both the growers and his technicians.

The team packs up their samples and heads to an off-site lab where they will be further analyzed. Today, one more step has been completed in this grower’s season. With an LGMA certification, they are confident that their produce will nourish the end-consumer, not make them sick. At the end of the day, that shared goal is what brings us to your fields and keeps us there through many seasons more. 

Sections of this article have been revised for accuracy on (1/6/21). For up-to-date information on LGMA metrics and more, visit

https://lgmatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CA-LGMA-Metrics-August-2020_Final_Clean_9-18-20.pdf[LW1]


 

Citation:

A. Ward, personal communication, December 21, 2020

Horsfall, Scott. LGMA Audit Data Released on New Water Requirements. California LGMA, 30 September 2020, https://lgma.ca.gov/news/audit_data_water. Accessed 1 October 2020. 

California LGMA. (2020) Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines: For the Production and Harvest of Lettuce and Leafy Greens. https://lgmatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CA-LGMA-Metrics-August-2020_Final_Clean_9-18-20.pdf

Target Acquired: Why We Choose Chlorine Dioxide and More

Target Acquired: Why We Choose Chlorine Dioxide and More

Garrett Dana, Food Safety and Water Treatment Specialist

As far as water treatment goes, food safety happens to be the highest priority these days. As LGMA and other food safety organizations evolve and increase industry standards, we are beginning to see a wider variety of procedures and chemicals in use. When deciding how you are going to send the cleanest, safest produce to buyers possible, it is important that you are aware of your options. 

Chemicals

The treatment mandated by LGMA, 21 days prior to harvest, is done through the process of oxidation. A variety of chemicals can be used. The most common of these are calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, potassium hypochlorite, and PAA. Each of these chemicals function by attacking and killing contaminants in your irrigation systems. The issue is that none of these chemicals offer targeted attacks. Instead, its energy is allocated to all contaminants, such as turbidity, that may be swept into open-air water sources. These contaminants do not increase your odds of testing positive for E. coli or other coliforms. 

We choose to utilize chlorine dioxide, which is a bacteria-focused oxidizer. The choice on our part is intentional: 

  • It targets harmful contaminants, making it a much more efficient vehicle to use. 
  • This chemical has a wide PH range, allowing the chemistry to operate in a wide variety of water qualities.
  • It is also unique in that it can be used by both conventional and organic growers. Chlorine Dioxide fits within the organic use restrictions.
  • The product is generated on-site so you can ensure the oxidizing agent has not deteriorated from environmental elements.

Procedures

Though all growers must adhere to this timeline, many choose to treat their water above and beyond the standard. We call these growers our Rockstar growers for a reason. You too can be a Rockstar by: 

  • Treating your water at all points of your growing cycle, not just the mandatory 21 days before harvest. 
  • Verifying microbial water quality on a set cycle and at varying points throughout your system.  

It is more important than ever to know what is going into your water and why. Our technicians strive to provide not only that knowledge but also with the ease of mind that comes with knowing we are tirelessly working for you. Together, we can create a cleaner, healthier harvest. 

Why Is A Cooling Tower Lay-Up So Important?

Why Is A Cooling Tower Lay-Up So Important?

Marco Hurtado – Industrial Division Manager Meras Water Solutions

A proper cooling tower lay-up is a key function for the longevity of your system. Protecting your cooling systems is an important, full-time job, year-round. This is true across the board, including industries such as packing sheds and cold storages, who take their cooling systems “off-line” as the production season comes to an end and the colder months begin to approach. Why is this? Cooling systems are a dynamic environment where large-scale dysfunction, such as mineral scaling, metallurgical corrosion, and microbial fouling, can occur, even when the system is on stand-by. For this reason, it is critical that a proper chemical treatment program is put into place, including plans for a lay-up procedure at the end of your active season.  

During the warm operating months, you and your water treatment provider spend a large amount of time and effort to run tight chemistry and water parameters to prevent scale, corrosion, and microbiological fouling. Unfortunately, all of this hard work and effort can be in vain for protecting your cooling systems

if that same care is not put into protecting your system during the stand-by season. To combat this, we can implement a lay-up procedure, also referred to as a winterization procedure, wherein we prepare your system to be placed in standby mode for an extended time.

As your systems sit idle, they run the serious risk of undergoing serious corrosion and microbiological fouling. These risks can lead to other issues, such as: 

  • Increased operational costs 
  • Increased utility costs 
  • Decreased equipment longevity 

If cooling water corrosion inhibitors are not consistently and accurately maintained, metal surfaces become susceptible to pitting and accelerated corrosion. Water conditions in offline systems can also loosen iron oxide particles and create further complications in strainers, pumps, and spray nozzles. Furthermore, a stagnant, wet environment with the proper amount of nutrients and anaerobic bacteria can lead to biofilm formation on your cooling system surfaces. Such organic contamination can also contribute to your corrosion rates and will create concerning inefficiencies when you start up your system once again. 

When it comes to properly shutting down and storing your cooling systems, specific steps must be taken to ensure that your equipment is protected and ready for the following season. Before performing a lay-up procedure, you must follow a two-step process to begin removing dissolving suspended solids from your cooling tower. The first step involves lowering your cycles of concentration and the second step involves chemically shocking the system to address any foulants that may remain. Once your cooling system has undergone this first part, you are now prepared for a lay-up. 

A lay-up can take two forms: dry or wet. A dry lay-up means that you are emptying out your cooling system and sealing it shut once it is properly dried out. A wet lay-up means you are leaving water in your cooling system during the stand-by season. While a dry lay-up is usually recommended for long-term storage, a wet lay-up is recommended for short-term storage. In today’s industry, you can find a variety of product offerings that are specifically designed for this sort of protocol.  

You work hard to keep your system running most of the year. Ensure that that valuable time and effort will not go down the drain by staying one step ahead. Lay-up your system today so that you can begin your active season with a running start.

If your stand-by season is approaching and you are interested in protecting your cooling systems the right way, feel free to contact us for a free site visit. We are always happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction.  

Keeping Cold Storage Cold

Keeping Cold Storage Cold

Marco Hurtado, Meras Water Solutions       Industrial Division Manager

The water that runs through evaporative condensers has one of the most important jobs in your facility. It keeps your stored goods fresh and safe; it ensures that packing and distribution moves along with minimal interruption, and it does so with little involvement from you – for a short amount of time at least.

Whether you know it or not, that water may be harboring issues not immediately obvious. These issues, when left unaddressed, translates to more waste and less efficiency. Studies show that as little as .005 inches of scaling on the surface your ammonia coils increase the energy required to transfer heat by 5%. This number compounds linearly, forcing your systems to work harder as contaminates grow. Slowly but surely, your most important asset can become a costly headache.

Identify water that is working against you, rather than for you? Submitting a water sample to a professional lab for analysis is a great way to know exactly what you are up against. You can also assess the general condition of your own water. These simple steps are the first in the right direction.

  1. Visual: Look at your system. Is there any obvious scaling or slime on the heat exchange surfaces? Can you spot algae beginning to bloom? Discoloration or murkiness is a sure sign there is an impending issue.
  2. Odor: Biofouling may have a distinct if faint smell. A musky or spoiling-like odor often accompanies other signs that there may be hidden microfouling.
  3. Touch: Water riddled with impurities, such as biofouling, often has a soft, scummy feel to it. A simple swipe across the surface of the tank can give you a ton of insight.
  4. Performance analysis: Dip slides are a simple tool that can reveal a huge amount of information. These small, economical slides are dipped into the water and placed in an 86-degree environment for 48 hours. They then give you HPC readings and a general observation of the bacteria your system is harboring. Contact Meras water solutions to schedule a technician to perform this analysis for you.

Let us say that you have assessed your water and it has unacceptable levels of minerality and/or microfouling. If your water displays characteristics that can lead to scaling, it may be time to re-evaluate your chemical program and the setting established for your controller. For many, the solution to biofouling is to load your system up with bleach or other biocides and hope that, this time, you caught it before the fouling got out of control. Many facilities do exactly this every summer when temperatures rise and bacteria begins to take hold, making shocking your system a normal procedure for some.  

By looking at the science behind your system, technicians can stop this cycle in its tracks – completely negating the need for extreme treatments that eventually lead to system failure due to biocide-resistant bacteria and corrosion. To accomplish this, they track data on your system regularly and anticipate your system’s unique patterns. In turn, you will see heightened heat transfer and less disruption to your operations.

Your water should never be your enemy.  Instead, trust its care to experts. We are here to ensure that it is working for you and with you, every step of the way.  

Resources: https://www.awt.org/resources/seed-program/water-careers/science-of-scaling/

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Never Go Alone: Customer Service that Keeps on Giving

Never Go Alone: Customer Service that Keeps on Giving

Dan Lindberg

When I walk your fields or your orchards, I walk it as if I were taking a stroll through my own. I watch the ground, scanning for dry areas, and if I catch an irrigation event, I open a hose-end to let the water run into my hands. How long does it take for the water to run clear and free of bio-film and other contaminates? Do the emitters reflect the same flow rate that I can observe in the field? I am looking for what you do because I know exactly how valuable this plot of land is to you.

This basic respect is at the core of why the relationships my team and I cultivate with growers is unique. Our mode of operation takes into account the singular nature of your farm by addressing five basic steps that I believe ensures the best experience for us both:

  1. Getting to know your farm and prioritizing your needs. When we initially assess your farm, we are looking for your objectives as well as your limitations. It is our job to work within the goals we set together while maximizing your benefits. In other words, let’s get the best bang for your buck. 
  2. Addressing plugging issues. Plugging is the number one reason your system may not be meeting expectations. When biofilm or scale begin to build up, it inhibits your flow rate, your DU is no longer hitting the percentage we are looking for, and your crops are missing out on nutrients. It is the most common issue for growers and our highest priority when getting your farm up to standard.
  3. Streamlining the process. Our systems are great but it is your technician that makes maintaining your water system the most effortless aspect of the growing season. We are there to catch possible issues before they become one and make ourselves accessible if an emergent situation does arise.
  4. Careful documentation. Each time I, or someone on my team, stops by your farm we document our findings, and that data is immediately reported to you. Together, we come up with a gameplan. By tracking everything from changes in water quality to algae blooms in your reservoirs, to dips in DU, we have a foundation on which to plan longer-term goals.
  5. Planning for the future. This is when all of that data we collected and the observations we made as we serviced your systems come into play. Sitting down on a regular basis with you is essential to explore these trends and explain their causes. Now we get to design your farm’s future.

These steps are not the end-all, be-all in customer service. They are simply the building blocks of a relationship that will grow and evolve over the years, elevating your farm to a new level of functionality and efficiency. They are there so that you can rest easy knowing that there is one more person walking between your rows looking for dry areas.

No Mystery Here: What to Expect from Your Water Treatment Partner

No Mystery Here: What to Expect from Your Water Treatment Partner

Marco Hurtado, Industrial Division Manager

There are few things that a business owner hopes to find mystery in. Dealings with your water treatment provider are not one of them. I often receive phone calls from individuals who are simply fed up by the “closed-door” attitude of their current or previous providers. These complaints range from poor communication to missed orders. Most worrying is when I hear of a business receiving a service report that has no information as to when the technician came by their facility. When this happens, there is no way to confirm whether the technician was present onsite or not which can be frustrating on multiple fronts.

Here at Meras, we believe that when we enter a relationship with you and your business, we are entering into a partnership. This partnership relies on six basic expectations: 

  1. Accessible information

We will keep you informed. Your service representative functions as a lifeline between you and your water system. They are there, not only to find solutions but also to provide comprehensive education on why these solutions fit your unique needs.

  1. Transparent and timely communication

Whether it be regular check-ins via phone, in-person updates at the beginning of inspection and service, or through email when discussing your service report, your representative is accessible to you at all times for updates and to answer any questions you may have.

  1. Thorough customization of your unique program

The scope of work, per the agreement in place, will be clear and meet your’ expectations at the get-go. We accomplish this by taking a thorough inventory of your equipment, needs, and history. The program that you and your representative develop together is meant to be as unique as your business is.

  1. Consulting and technical support

Your water treatment representative should help tackle water-related challenges that your systems may be experiencing as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Every milestone is to be met with full cooperation. In the event of an emergency, you and your representative should be working up a response plan in under two hours.

  1. Documented data and events

Clearly described and thorough documentation will be provided to develop a profile of historical data and critical events. We believe in treating your water system as a whole, not simply the symptoms.

  1. Management of inventory and feed equipment

You will not be running out of essential chemicals and your feed equipment will be in good operating conditions. We combat lapses in service by keeping careful inventory and scheduling maintenance, testing, and other services regularly.

Choosing a water treatment provider should feel like a sigh of relief. With us, you will walk away from each interaction knowing exactly what you are getting and why. Above all, you should rest easy with the knowledge that you are a priority and will be treated as such. Your business deserves nothing less.

Innovation in the Time of Coronavirus: Out with the Juice, in With the Hand Sanitizer

Innovation in the Time of Coronavirus: Out with the Juice, in With the Hand Sanitizer

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The world turns no matter what and, for the most part, we turn with it. It is only when something comes along to throw us out of balance that we find ourselves in a dead stop or, for some getting dizzy. This year, that something has been the coronavirus.


            For our key partner, Envirotech Chemical Services Inc, the sudden response to the virus meant a heightened demand for one of the products – hand sanitizer.  Though they had the raw product in ready supply, they quickly realized that it was impossible to keep up with demand with their current packaging process.
 They reached out to us at Meras Water Solutions to deal with the end-user interface. We began to distribute the hand sanitizer through our shop, prioritizing front-line workers, and essential services. Still, within a week, orders were backlogged for six more weeks.
            This predicament was weighing on our CEO, Bryan O’Connell’s mind when he attended his monthly Alliance of Chief Executive Officer meeting. At the meeting, Grant Carlson the CEO of Good Use shared his own company’s struggle.
Good Use is a company that recovers otherwise discarded produce from local vendors in order to create artisan juice that he then distributes largely to office buildings in the Bay Area. Due to the mandates in place, most of his customer base was working from home. The loss of revenue meant that his packaging plant was at a stand-still and that layoffs were likely in the future.
Bryan saw an opportunity. If Good Use could put its packaging plant to work processing Envirotech’s sanitizer, they could not only supplement their lost profits, but our customers would also receive better, more timely service. That day, an unlikely partnership was born between a chemical manufacturer and a juice company.
Together, we have created a whole new service that addressed the customer’s immediate needs, protected jobs, and ultimately helped the world be just a little bit safer.  You can now find Envirotech’s quality hand sanitizer parceled up neatly in Good Use’s bag-in-a-box packaging for sale on their website. You can find hand sanitizer and other high-quality industrial-strength surface sanitizers for sale on Meras Water Solutions website.
 In this time of confusion and fear, the answer to our individual struggles would have never been found within. Instead, we looked outward and made the connections that allowed us to thrive where it would have been very easy to lose our footing. So, yes, the world keeps turning but it is much easier to stay standing when you have partners around to lend support. 

 

Put it to Sleep Properly: Winterizing Your Irrigation System

Put it to Sleep Properly: Winterizing Your Irrigation System

Larissa Winder – Independent technical writer

Very early in the morning, water treatment expert, Dan Lindberg, walks between the rows of a 60-acre parcel of an 845-acre ranch. The sun has barely shown its face over the horizon and the crows have yet to settle into the barren vines to picked at what remaining dried fruit that may have been long forgotten by harvest. He carefully watches the wetting patterns spreading out from each emitter. The perfect V shape of moist earth, evenly spaced at regular intervals, tells him that the system is working as it should, at least for now.

It is late September.  The last harvest was a week ago and the grower is gearing up to close down their system for the winter season.  From now until early spring, this field will only receive sporadic irrigation as needed and the system itself will sit mostly stagnant. Dan makes his way towards the system for a final check. He takes note of the amount of water and chemicals used since last visit and the general health of the system to report to the grower in full.

His team and the grower’s management are in contact often but at this time of the year, Dan makes sure that he and the grower are on the same page and that they are as informed as possible. They discuss everything from DU trends to possible issues in the future as the ranch expands. The grower is happy to hear about the progress Dan’s team has made and the level of care they had shown the ranch at every turn. He shares that he has seen a return on investment in his field since Dan began treating his irrigation system.

Item by item, Dan and the grower analyze the efficiency of their irrigation system and build a plan for the next year. Dan’s technicians had noticed that certain times of the season during the hotter months and times when the aqueduct had more algae blooms than normal, that sections of the block would experience plugging on occasion, so he and the grower discuss adjusting their chemical ratio as well as introducing additional chemistry if needed at certain times of the season.  They also decrease the amount of chemistry purchased to maximize savings before coming up with a maintenance plan. There is only one last item to discuss.

Would they consider winterizing their system this year?

Dan explains that the process is simple and cost-effective in the long run. He and his technicians would start by applying product prefilter to remediate the media in the sand media tanks, and everything down stream.  They move on to applying chemistry on the other ranches, PAA (Peracetic Acid) and chlorine dioxide have worked well with this particular water source to the system as a whole. The chemistry will sit in the system for as long as possible, discouraging biofouling in the lines, and off-season contaminants.   It is also meant to extend the longevity of equipment.

At the start of the next growing season, the system will be flushed. The oxidizers would be dumped from the system at once, revealing clean, ready-to-work lines. The grower can then hit the ground running without wasting time, money, and labor on remediating a system that has become plugged with biofilm or dealing with water that has been filled with worsening contaminants.

Considering the cost

The grower considers Dan’s advice carefully. He asks many thoughtful questions that Dan is able to answer in detail. They have worked together for a few years and he has yet to come across an issue, even at the start of his growing season. He trusts them. Still, though Dan’s winter sanitation proposal makes sense to prevent an issue come spring, he ultimately decides against winterizing the system since they have not experienced issues in the past. It is simply one more cost that he is unsure of.

Dan completely understands. Making decisions like this can be difficult, he knows that as long as he is able to offer them accurate, usable information to help produce a good crop, he has done his job.  After small talk about winter projects and tasks around the ranch, he gives them the rest of their data before checking the vineyard one last time and drives out. The sun is fully overhead now, and the wetting patterns are no longer visible as they were when the sun was rising.  He hopes the next time he visits; they will look exactly as they did that morning.

Start of the growing season

Fast forward to early March, Dan receives a call from this grower.  The grower fired up his irrigation system for the first time on this block to check for leaks.  There is a problem. Within 24 hours, his team is onsite. The first thing he does is crouch down to look between the trellises of bare, brittle vines. The faint wetting patterns are concerning, to say the least.

The perfect V’s of moisture are few and far between. Instead, it looks as though many of the emitters are only dribbling enough water to create two to three-inch halos. It comes as no surprise that when he checks that pressure gauge, it has extremely high readings. The flow rate though is what seals the deal. The reading is showing a staggering decrease of 350 gallons less than the recorded rate this time the previous year.

He suspects that there is a major plugging issue, most likely due to a combination of unusually high temperatures at the end of the growing season and the stagnation of a hibernating system – unfortunate consequences of the decision not to winterize.

Remediation

While Dan mobilizes his team to do a full field evaluation and distribution uniformity test, Dan cuts open a hose-end and allows the water to pour into his palm. He can see, right away, that the water is cloudy. Specs of biological contaminants cling to his hand, even after he allows the water to slip between his fingers and to the ground. He peers into the hose and wrinkles his nose. The walls of the hose are covered in slimy biofouling. This is a remediation, and it needs to happen fast.

They shock the system with a custom mixture of chemistry. The oxidizers quickly get to work, cleaning up the biological contaminates, eating away at the unwelcome materials that are gathered around each important component of the system. The team carefully monitors the DU and flow rate. Both gradually begin to show much better numbers. Still, Dan knows the damage is done.

Pre-season irrigation audit

One by one, unsalvageable hoses and emitters are replaced with new ones. Employees who would otherwise be busy preparing for the growing season are tasked with walking the rows of vineyards, watching for leaks, or plugging. Valuable time and labor are expended but without clean lines, nothing can progress so there is no choice. Eventually, the system is moving along as it should – but at what cost?

The remediation takes place over the rest of the scheduled irrigation event.  Between labor costs, replacing tubing and emitters, Dan estimates that the entire event cost the grower exponentially more than his initial quote for winterization.  He supposes, at the end of the day, the price will be paid, the only question is when and how much.

Next year, the grower tells Dan that there is no question, as a prevention measure, they will be putting their irrigation system to sleep properly. Winterization is no longer an option when the alternative is so expensive.

This time, Dan walks the field in the evening. Once again, the sun is low in the sky and casts the perfect golden glow for him to see the wetting patterns at his feet. He smiles, each one is as perfect as the last. For now, that will not change.

From Field to Table: The Evolution of Food Safety

From Field to Table: The Evolution of Food Safety

The E. coli outbreak of 2006 changed the game for California farmers. Fear instantly began to play a large part in buying patterns from customers up to direct buyers. An overhaul of our concept of food safety was imminent. In response, California farmers began to set stricter guidelines, effectively ensuring that only clean, safe produce make it to consumer’s plates.  

The LGMA (California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement) formed in 2007, and other food safety organizations have quickly become the standard to which you, the growers, are held. Major buyers now require these certifications, cementing them as the industry standard and a force of change within. Treating your water to meet these metrics has become one of the most important aspects of your harvesting season – and the most expensive.  

How do we meet LGMA guidelines?

The 2006 outbreak prompted an investigation, leading to the discovery that O157, known more commonly as E.coli, is often delivered through overhead sprinkler irrigation systems from Type B, or open-air sources. To combat this danger, a new standard metric has been set. Since 2018, ranches have been expected to meet a criterion of 2 of 3 samples testing as non-detect for generic E. coli and 1 testing at no greater than 10 MPN for generic E. coli. All 3 samples must not test greater than 99 MPN for Total Coliform or an adequate log reduction of TC based on an untreated source sample must be documented. In addition, all water systems must be tested and treated within 21 days of harvest in order to verify these metrics.  (Ward, 2020)


A variety of chemicals can be used to treat the water at its source. The most common are oxidizers such as calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, potassium hypochlorite, and PAA. These chemicals work to oxidize any and every cause of turbidity, including non-invasive matter. We at Meras, however, choose to utilize a bacteria-specific oxidizer called chlorine dioxide which targets harmful bacteria rather than inane debris.  

Why do you need us?

All growers have access to these chemicals and the ability to apply them. Hoping to meet these new guidelines on your own, however, is much more complicated. Without in-depth knowledge and constant monitoring, chances of failure to meet the new guidelines – resulting in unfavorable test results at the time of harvest, is high. This failure throws a very large, very expensive wrench into the process.  

As a full-service provider, we not only offer testing and treatment, we complete the process from start to finish all so that you don’t have to. Our service includes detailed documentation and analytics, raising the efficiency of your entire operation. With us, you know that your harvest season will not culminate in a sudden halt and that you are certified for an ever-expanding list of big-name buyers.  

Though the future of LGMA and other industry standards is unclear, there is no question that food safety will continue to be of the utmost importance. Your buyers are aware of that fact and we are here to ensure that you meet their expectations at every turn.  

Sections of this article have been revised for accuracy on (1/6/2021). For up-to-date information on LGMA metrics and more, visit https://lgmatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CA-LGMA-Metrics-August-2020_Final_Clean_9-18-20.pdf[LW1] 


Citation:

A. Ward, personal communication, December 21, 2020

Additional Resources:

California LGMA. (2020) Commodity Specific Food Safety Guidelines: For the Production and Harvest of Lettuce and Leafy Greens. https://lgmatech.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/CA-LGMA-Metrics-August-2020_Final_Clean_9-18-20.pdf

Mike Ratto, Golden R Inc./Ratto Farms

Meras Water Solutions has helped ensure that our water lines are clean and function properly for years. Initially, we reached out to the company when our tomato field had root intrusion issues. With their water expertise and collaborative problem-solving approach, the system was quickly back up to speed delivering water and nutrients and functioning exceptionally well–allowing for a profitable harvest. We attest to our success and to the quality products and exceptional customer service. Zack and Dylan, our Meras Water Solutions representatives, checked our system every day and answered my phone call anytime–day or night. This is huge for me, as I am a  farmer who runs a 24-hour operation! We were so impressed with the outcome and service that we have since had the company continue to provide products and services for our almond irrigation system, as well as the drip system for tomatoes. They continuously ensure that the product is injected into the lines as needed, there’s no corrosion of the lines, and I have peace of mind. Aside from helping us keep our crops healthy and profitable, Meras gives me the best hats!

New Life at the Salida Sanitary District Sewage Treatment Plant

New Life at the Salida Sanitary District Sewage Treatment Plant

Sewage treatment turned into a wildlife sanctuary

If you follow the Golden State Highway through Central California, you will eventually make your way to the City of Salida. The Salida Sanitary District lies on the southern bank of the Stanislaus River, who’s meandering path defines the border of both the city and county. Viewed from above, this home of 13,000 people appears as a gray square in a greater mosaic of greens and browns. On the banks of the Stanislaus River lay three percolation ponds, which are the focus for this case study.

The District accommodates the wastewater needs of this community. Water is distributed through the city, collected from a variety of waste categories, and is then sent back to the District for treatment. The treated water is then dispelled as reclaimed water into the three percolation ponds. The now phosphorus-rich water encourages an aggressive bloom of algae and the proliferation of plants. Prior to 2017, these ponds were unwelcoming, even deadly, to animal life. Duckweed and Filamentous Algae covered 99% of the water’s surface up to two inches thick, and dissolved oxygen levels stayed at a dismal 1 mg/L.  The District was cited in violation of improper Biological Oxygen Level (BOD) and needed help.

In early 2017, DWI was brought on in partnership with Meras Water Solutions to provide remedial treatment for these three difficult ponds. DWI began by applying a combination of F-30 Algae Control and F-55 Biozyme, a comprehensive blend of enzymes, addressing the filamentous algae population, plus Reward, an aquatic herbicide for the duckweed. The F-30 quickly killed and sank the plants on the surface of the water, and the F-55 expedited the decomposition of organic material. While this treatment significantly reduced plant and algal biomass, it did not address the astonishingly low levels of dissolved oxygen. In response, a Vertex aeration system was installed in each of the ponds to provide artificial oxygenation.

It is well known that river otters are one of the best indicators of a healthy aquatic environment, and it just happens that the Stanislaus River is home to an otter population. Not only were The District, DWI and MWS happy, but the wildlife was as well! In a short period of time after treatment, the aeration equipment was installed, which brought the ponds to a healthy BOD level. The river otters decided that these ponds were now a great place to train their young in the arts of swimming and fishing.

With the newly elevated levels of dissolved oxygen present, local Vector Control introduced a small quantity of mosquitofish as a preventative measure. Today, the fish population is robust, so much so that Vector Control harvests excess fish from these ponds. Turtles, waterfowl, and other species have followed in the steps of the otters, inhabiting the renewed ponds and making them a permanent home. The area has become a fish hatchery, which was the dream of the community for years.

The ponds at Salida Sanitary District are a testament to Diversified Waterscapes’ ability to restore even the most dismal bodies of water. With 45 years of experience, DWI also knows how to create a thriving ecosystem where there was none before. 

Percolation pond, post-treatment
Water for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Water for Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

There is no question that water is essential to California. With a state with a gorgeous ecosystem ranging from the highest snowcapped mountains to the grand Pacific Ocean, water is one of the top resources of the state. In today’s day and age, due to overcoming a 4-year drought, it may seem like water is California’s new gold. In 2019, Water usage in California is divided up by 50% for environmental use, 40% for agricultural use, and 10% for urban use. This could change depending on if the year was wet, dry, or regular. On a wet year such as 2005, distribution usually increases for environmental usage, while agriculture and urban decrease. While during a dry year like 2016, to continue to make agricultural production a priority, agriculture increases to approximately 61% (Mount & Hanak, 2019). You may wonder, “why does agriculture get such a large portion in California?”

 California is responsible for producing 90% of the United States’ fruits, vegetables, and nuts. The state is the number one agricultural producer in the United States and the fifth largest producer in the world (Ruggelio 2019). With over 400 different commodities to grow, irrigation is a necessity. According to the 2017 crop year reports for California, the top 10 commodities of the state are dairy products, grapes, almonds, strawberries, cattle, lettuce, walnuts, tomatoes, pistachios, and broilers (CDFA 2018).

 For the most part, California produces your breakfast, lunch, and dinner! With so many crops to produce, water is essential. In today’s climate, water is unpredictable. This is why many crop industries have changed their irrigation practices to be more efficient. Many have converted their systems to smart irrigation systems such as micro-irrigation to conserve water to be able to produce food in efficient and effective ways. Look at the almond industry, for example. In the last 20 years, the almond industry has reduced their intake of water by 80% and continues to pledge to reduce how much water it takes to grow a pound of almonds by 20% by 2025 (Wahlbrink 2019). The California farmer is passionate about sustainable irrigation practices to provide quality nutritious foods for consumers and values his share of Califonia water.

Sources:

California Department of Food and Agriculture. “California Agricultural Production Statistics.” CDFA, 2018, www.cdfa.ca.gov/statistics/.

Mount, J., & Hanak, E. (2019, May). Water Use in California. Retrieved from Public Policy of California: https://www.ppic.org/publication/water-use-in-california/

Ruggelio, Angela. “California Agriculture Production Ranks in Top 10 Worldwide.” The Aggie, 3 Apr. 2008, theaggie.org/2008/04/03/california-agriculture-production-ranks-in-top-10-worldwide/.

Wahlbrink, Brian. “Water Management Is a Complex Issue in California. But We Need to Tackle It Together.” California Almonds , California Almond Board, 5 July 2019, www.almonds.com/blog/water-management-complex-issue-california-need-tackle-together.